Own Your Power! Women in Leadership Series - Part 6

Finding Your Courage and Fighting the Impostor Syndrome


As we wrap up our six week ‘Women in Leadership’ Series, I want to talk about the loop we often find ourselves in when we try and balance accelerating our careers and feeling like a fraud.  If we take on something new, we often find ourselves out of our depth, and having to fight like hell to get past the impostor syndrome feelings.  If we play it safe and stay within our comfort zone, we get bored and we begin to miss that sense of purpose and fulfillment.  This can feel like a no-win situation for many women but rest assured there is a way to be courageous and feel like you belong.


If you want to reach your fullest potential, you need to learn how to face fear head on and give it a giant punch in the face. Courageous women have the ability to dig deep to find out what they’re really afraid of.  They imagine what would happen if everything went horribly wrong and build a strong mitigation strategy.  Obviously the worst case scenario is highly unlikely.  You will do everything in your power to make sure that doesn’t happen and keep an eye out for the warning signs.  By understanding the worst possible scenario and having a plan if everything fails, fear becomes largely manufactured and puts you in the driver’s seat.  


Here are a few things you may want to try so you can unleash the fearless leader within you.


Cut to the chase – People are busy. Be clear and stop pre-qualifying your statements with an apology.

Openly challenge – No more waiting for “off line” conversations. Discuss issues as they are happening.

Unflappable – You’re the only one who knows you’re uncomfortable. Breathe and stay strong.

Revisit issues often – When yes doesn’t mean agreement; keep going back until it does.

Analysis – Get enough supporting data to make you comfortable to challenge.

Group – Find like-minded people that support your position on an issue.

Empower – You and your team need to take action on your ideas.


Once you’ve mastered your courage you’re going to find yourself in new situations all the time; which is awesome!  At some point you might struggle with feeling like you don’t belong there, that you’re surrounded by people smarter than you, and that it’s only a matter of time before they decide that you have no idea what you’re doing.


The impostor syndrome is real. The good news is that it’s temporary and happens to everyone at some point.  There’s a lot of discussion on how to avoid the impostor syndrome.   In my view, if you don’t feel like this from time-to-time you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. You should be willing to step out of your comfort zone if you want to accelerate your career. 


You need to figure out a way to shorten the impostor syndrome feelings as fast as you can. Here are a few ideas on how you can get over that hump.


Realize this is temporary.  In most cases you’re the only one who believes you don’t belong there.  These feelings will pass but until it does, fake it till you make it and never let them see you sweat.

Do what energizes you.  Staying in your happy place outside of work will give you the strength you need to be a high performer at the office every day. The stress of leading through a new situation while fighting the impostor syndrome can be exhausting. Keep the rest of your life as balanced as possible.

Record your successes.  We forget all the great things we do and tend to focus on all the things we haven’t done well.  Keep a “Thatta Girl” file for all your wins big and small.  When you’re starting to feel uncertain or outmatched re-read it and remind yourself of how awesome you really are.

Learn from others. Find someone who you admire and who represents what you want to be in this new role.  Watch and learn from this person, reach out and make them a part of your network. You’ll realize you have more in common than you think.

Admit you don’t know.  A new role or project stretches your capabilities. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be having these feelings. It’s okay to admit you’re unfamiliar with a topic. As a leader you should be asking more questions, challenging the status quo and lines of thinking.  Combining leadership with learning should be natural.

Make room for error. You are going to make mistakes. You made mistakes in your last role and recovered like a champ, but now things seem so much worse.  Don’t overthink this.  Make room for learning (aka mistakes), be transparent and recover.  Just like you’ve always done. Chances are good you’re making a big deal out of it when no one else has given it a second thought.

Find Cheerleaders. During these times we all need a little pep talk from time-to-time. Find people who know and love you enough to tell you you’re being ridiculous and move on. Then actually listen to them!

Keep the bar high.  Simplifying problems can be a good way of understanding and solving them.  Don’t do it.  Keep the bar high and put in the extra effort to catch up. You’re the only one who knows you feel like an impostor. Your team is expecting a strong leader and your manager is expecting a high performing team. Don’t disappoint your team or the people who put you there.

Give yourself a break.  We’re our own worst critic at times; especially when we’re fighting these impostor feelings.  Find a way to refocus that negative voice in your head.  Be proud that you’re working out of your comfort zone and becoming a better leader in the process.


When a woman finds her courage she finds her power beyond anything she thought possible.  Once you get there, remember it’s OK to feel like you don’t belong – just remind yourself that it’s not actually true, and try to minimize how long you feel that way.  We all have courage.  Today is a great day to take that first step towards finding it!


Are you looking for executive coaching or interested in our Women in Leadership series?  Contact us at info@coralcg.com today and find out how we can help!

Women in Leadership
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